Tag Archives: Enforcers of Right Think

The Spiral of Silence and Conversations about Race

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In our last two posts we examined how political correctness can pressure individuals to self-censor their speech, whether in person or on the Internet, out of fear of ridicule, ostracism, or actual punishment by the enforcers of politically correct “right think”. This tendency to not speak out has been dubbed the spiral of silence. We looked at the cases of two police officers who lost their jobs, in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO, because of comments they had made.

After Ferguson, once again we’re hearing cries for a “conversation about race.” A truly productive conversation is not going to happen in the current atmosphere, in light of the spiral of silence. Why not? Because political correctness poisons the well. Any comment perceived to be politically incorrect, in this context, will immediately result in accusations of racism. How, then, can there be any real dialogue?

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The “Spiral of Silence”: Self-Censorship and Political Correctness

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Despite that it’s commonly believed that the Internet facilitates free speech, a new study indicates that on social media people tend to not speak out if they believe that their views are unpopular or if they perceive that they may be negatively criticized for expressing their heart-felt opinions. The authors explain that it’s long been known that people self-censor in face-to-face interactions:

A major insight into human behavior from pre-internet era studies of communication is the tendency of people not to speak up about policy issues in publicor among their family, friends, and work colleagueswhen they believe their own point of view is not widely shared. This tendency is called the spiral of silence.”

Some social media creators and supporters have hoped that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter might produce different enough discussion venues that those with minority views might feel freer to express their opinions, thus broadening public discourse and adding new perspectives to everyday discussion of political issues.

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